2011 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer Review
Lots of show and a little go add up to a unique cafe racer
Moto Guzzi’s V7 Racer exudes speed in a ’60s Ace Cafe sorta way. Its throwback-themed appearance regularly provokes admiring comments from passersby who have a high regard for the café racer movement or just purely enjoy a classically themed, simple sporting motorcycle.
The looks-the-part two-wheeler would be fast too, if we were living in that bygone era. But in this century, the 744cc, air-cooled, longitudinally mounted V-Twin whimpers almost embarrassing horsepower figures. Thankfully, as Harley’s proven time and again, you don’t need to go fast to look cool. So grab your pudding bowl helmet and goggles and explore the execution of this retro racer.
By far, the V7 Racer’s most impressive feature is its exemplary appearance. We brought the V7R to a recent Mods vs. Rockers motorcycle/lifestyle event, and this contemporary Guzzi attracted plenty of retro-minded admirers. “Wow, that thing looks tits!” exclaimed one attendee who was definitely in the Rocker camp. “It’s like it just came out of custom shop!”
The Racer has the long, low profile of a vintage V7, and its black outerwear is nicely accented by burgundy-red splashes on its frame, swingarm, wheel hubs and sparkplug wires. Fork gaiters add to the retro theme, as do the spoke wheels with black rims. It all adds up to a sensational and unique appearance that always causes heads to swivel in its direction.
The small-block 744cc V-Twin feels different from Guzzi’s big-block motors, spinning up quicker and exhibiting less of the rotational crank torque that rocks Guzzis to their right side when revved. Although its peak power is modest (about 43 horses at the rear wheel), there’s ample grunt for most street situations.
Peak torque is said to arrive at just 3600 rpm, so the V7 responds with mild authority at lower revs and doesn’t feel truly gutless. But we wished for a livelier motor in this so-called Racer. The left handlebar-mounted manual fuel-enrichener lever (rather than automatically adjusting mixture and idle speed) betrays the EFI system’s 2004 roots, and we’d like to see an updated intake system in the near future, as is the rumor.
The tranny has light but longish throws, and swapping cogs is sometimes imprecise. Pulling the clutch lever takes a surprising amount of effort, especially for the weak-feeling dry clutch. As delivered, clutch engagement was sloppy, but after adjusting cable freeplay we were able to get it to bite solidly. Having only a single-disc front brake, the V7 lacks the stopping power of its modern counterparts, but with a healthy squeeze, the four-piston Brembo caliper grips the 320mm disc and slows the Racer in a manner sufficient for the modest power of its engine.
Clad with grippy Pirelli GP Sport Dragons, the V7 rider never gets to explore serious lean angles because left-side cornering clearance is greatly restricted. The left-side muffler restricts how far up the sidestand can retract, drastically limiting lean angle on that side way too early for a bike in the café-racer mold. The low-mount mufflers are carry-overs from the Café Classic model — which has passenger accommodations the R does not. In addition, the mufflers’ heat shields are excessively big considering there are no passenger legs to protect.
Pity, because this speedy looking modern classic is otherwise an obliging sporting machine. The Racer’s 18-inch front wheel doesn’t turn in as quickly as a 17-incher, but the bike is so light (437-pound curb weight), a rider can always bend it into a corner without undue resistance, and it feels planted and neutral while leaned over, providing there are no large mid-corner bumps.
The V7’s litheness also makes it easy to manage in tight, slow-speed maneuvers, aided by the torquey V-Twin that is always at a strong-pulling part of its powerband. Dual rear shocks feature remote reservoirs and preload- and rebound-damping adjustments, which adds to the V7R’s sporting flavor.
The V7R’s midsection is very narrow, but Duke’s 32-inch inseam vs. the V7R’s 31.7-inch seat height had him just barely flat-footing. The handlebars balance on the comfortable side of too low, which is appropriate for a machine of this style. Pressure on wrists can be alleviated by crunching abdominal muscles. The suede-topped seat proves to be surprisingly comfortable, even after an hour behind the bars. Rear-set footpegs limit the amount of legroom – it was fine for Duke’s small-size frame, but tall folk would best be advised to try it on before buying.
The number-plate/flyscreen provides a modicum of wind protection, and when combined with the forward lean of your torso, combines to make higher-speed freeway travel relatively painless. Longitudinal pavement grooves reveal a minor handling foible, as the front tire is often influenced by these grooves and causes a weave at the bars that is mild but mildly disconcerting.
The metal footpegs and short clip-ons transmit more vibration than expected from the 90-degree V-Twin, but the vibes are low-amplitude and not really bothersome. The sweetly rumbling note from its engine deserves a freer-breathing exhaust system, as emissions requirements force it to speak more softly than we’d like. If it were ours, we’d definitely fit an aftermarket exhaust system, as it would also likely uncork a few extra ponies and allow greater lean angles.
The V7R has several nice details, like the shifter and rear-brake pegs mounted on eccentrics for fine-tuning fitment. There’s a chrome cage on the triple clamp to protect dangling keys from scratching the special-edition numberplate. Twin chrome-ringed gauges are attractive, and the LCD info screen in the tach has displays for time or ambient temperature. The speedo’s LCD screen houses the odometer and a single tripmeter. The California emissions-compliant evaporative canister is nicely tucked away out of sight behind the engine sump.
Upon returning our V7R, we noticed a missing nut from a header stud and a fastener that had gone astray from the exhaust heat shield. This isn’t what we expect from modern motorcycles, but, hey, “It’s a Guzzi!” (See Norge review for euphemism reference.) Thankfully, Guzzis are equipped with two-year warranties.
Judged against semi-sporty machines from the Big Four, the $9790 V7R comes up short on performance and long on price. And yet this baby Goose has a classic appeal nothing from Asia can touch, giving it an appeal like no other current motorcycle. If nearly 10 grand is too steep for you, consider the $8990 V7 Classic, which is mostly identical mechanically but has a considerably less cool factor.
Key to the V7 Racer’s appeal is that its retro looks are authentically linked to the heritage of Moto Guzzi. Guzzis were always a major player in the café-racer movement, especially after the introduction of the V7 in the early 1970s. So here is a motorcycle that attracts both vintage enthusiasts and young hipsters, a feat precious few bikes can match. The Racer would also make a terrific entry-level sportster for beginners thick with style and wallet.